Although gerrymandering (aka one of the most significant threats to American democracy) has only become more blatant in recent years, the act of drawing partisan congressional lines has finally suffered a major blowback. After examining how the Florida GOP crafted arbitrary district borders to allow for more conservative seats in the House of Representatives, Judge Terry Lewis declared the lines unconstitutional…and he may be willing to delay the November election in some Florida districts to better protect democracy.
It may seem counterintuitive to postpone an election to protect democracy, but if the elections were to go on as planned, Republicans would maintain a distinct advantage in picking up seats for the upcoming 114th United States Congress. Despite Democrats winning Florida’s vote in the 2012 presidential election, they lost 17 of the 27 congressional seats, due in large part to the way district lines had been redrawn.
At present, Florida Republicans say they won’t contest Judge Lewis’s ruling, but they would like to see the November election carry on as planned. In other words, yes, they were caught cheating, but they would like to reap the benefits of that underhandedness at least once more before returning to a more fair system.
Alas, Florida Republicans might get their way. Given the election is just three months away, that’s hardly enough time to redraw districts and sort out all of the details for an election of this scale.
“Under the circumstances before me, I believe that the law requires that I at least consider the possibility [of postponing the election],” Judge Lewis said. Some wonder whether this is an empty threat, although there is a bit of precedent for a move like this. In 1982, Georgia had two of its congressional races postponed when district lines were found to contradict the Voting Rights Act.
Though both parties participate in gerrymandering, the Republicans have taken a clear advantage in this unethical game. While Democrats have sole control of drawing district lines in 6 states accounting for 44 districts, Republicans have 18 states under lockdown comprised of 210 districts.
As the Washington Post points out, the Supreme Court has essentially allowed rampant gerrymandering to persist due to inaction. A decade ago, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that since it was difficult for the court to decide when partisanship becomes unconstitutional, it should not try to enforce these matters.
However, the Supreme Court will get a second chance to tackle redistricting in the upcoming months when it hears Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v Alabama. After state legislators purposely consolidated areas with black democrats into the same districts in the state thereby creating more safe seats for Republicans, Democrats have decided to raise the issue with the nation’s highest court again.